House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, has removed Delegate Mark Dean, who voted against the omnibus education bill, from his position as vice chairman of the West Virginia House Education Committee.
Before the House passed the omnibus bill (House Bill 206) last month, Dean proposed several failed amendments targeting charter schools.
HB 206, which Gov. Jim Justice has now signed into law, does many things, including legalizing charter schools.
Dean is one of at least three delegates who have paid the price for bucking party leadership as it relates to the omnibus bill, one of the most high-profile pieces of legislation during the regular session and the crux of the special session. Two other delegates, Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, and Tony Paynter, R-Wyoming, voted with Democrats to adjourn the special session and to oppose the omnibus. Hanshaw stripped both of them of their committee assignments.
House spokesman Jared Hunt wrote in an email Wednesday that Delegate Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam, is the new vice chairman, while Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, will be the new chairman, taking over for someone who was in the role on an interim basis.
Dean, R-Mingo, said Hanshaw, who has the power to appoint and remove committee leaders, asked him to resign Friday. Dean said he had decided not to, but hadn’t yet told Hanshaw that when he learned from a lobbyist that he’d been replaced.
The lobbyist, Dean said, said he saw a tweet from Higginbotham saying he’d been named to the role.
Hunt wrote that, “I believe we were going to wait until everyone had received their appointment letters (which also included interim committee assignments) before sending anything to the press, but some members received their letters before others and posted details on social media.”
Dean said Hanshaw’s reasoning for requesting the resignation was “vague,” and he didn’t recall exactly what the speaker said. Dean said he assumed the move was because he “aggressively tried to change parts of the omnibus bill as it came through.”
Hunt wrote that, “I don’t have any details or knowledge about any personal conversations that may or may not have taken place.”
As a “lifelong” educator, Dean said, it was a goal of his to be a leader on the committee. He was passed over as chairman after Delegate Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, stepped down April 30 after admitting to a romantic relationship with an intern.
House Majority Whip Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, briefly took on the chairmanship role, which Ellington will now assume.
Dean said he’s worked in Mingo County public schools for 16 years, including 13 as a principal or assistant principal.
“To get removed for what I feel is standing up for public education kind of seems like a punch in the gut right now,” he said.
Dean’s failed June 19 amendments would have:
- Allowed residents to vote on whether to allow charter schools in their county;
- Banned county boards of education from authorizing charter schools until all county board seats held July 1 of this year have been up for reelection;
- Removed charter schools from the bill entirely.
He was one of the sponsors of a successful amendment that largely nixed the bill’s earlier provision that would’ve allowed county boards of education to decrease the role years of experience plays in determining which employees they can lay off or transfer to other jobs.
During the special session, lawmakers said Hanshaw had threatened to strip Republicans of their committee seats if they vote with Democrats to adjourn the session before a vote on the omnibus bill. Both McGeehan and Paynter said Wednesday they have been removed from their committee seats. Paynter said he was kicked out of his office he’s used since he started serving in 2017.
McGeehan criticized the tactic.
“Typically, only those in power who are either unwilling or incapable of making strong, logical arguments openly in civil debate will resort to such tactics,” he said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed information about committee removals. Delegates McGeehan and Paynter said they were removed.